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IWFS Baltimore Festival: Château Pontet Canet Vertical

October 16th, 2017

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Some remarkable wine and food events were held this last weekend at the IWFS Festival in Baltimore. Highlights included a Madeira tasting, a Burgundian dinner featuring the top wines of Louis Latour, and a final dinner of the last ten vintages of Château Pontet Canet. Your scribe will review only the later function here (and hopefully the other two in subsequent postings).

Quality focused owner Alfred Tesseron was in attendance to lead this grand tasting at the scenic Centre Club with excellent most appropriate food courses of mushroom risotto, duck breast, and long braised Angus short rib successfully matching his excellent wines. True visionary Alfred together with his nieces Melanie & Philippine and the conscientious regisseur (estate manager) Jean-Michel Comme have embraced organic and biodynamic methods allowing that special Pauillac terroir to really sing. They now have 8 horses working 50% of the 81 hectares (planted roughly 65CS, 28M, and 5CF & 2PV) in 2 blocks with the front section of 50 on very gravelly soil. Authorization received for a stable of 20 horses will allow the whole vineyard to avoid the compacting earth factor of tractors but it takes time to integrate each horse into an expanding group one at a time. They also recently purchased the Pym-Rae large property in Napa Valley from the Estate of the late Robin Williams and Alfred was disturbed by the fact he is unable to get any news whether or not it has been damaged by the current wild fires ravaging the area. Also Robert Parker was scheduled to attend but during a physio session this month he badly dislocated his hip requiring immediate surgery so was not able to join us with comments on how these super wines are developing including his two 100 pointers of 2009 & 2010. Therefore here are some insights from Alfred Tesseron and my brief impressions on the vintages as served from oldest to youngest:

2005: First year of organic and biodynamic production shows this excellent vintage to advantage. Lighter than expected but so classic with a minerally delicious balance of fruit, acid and tannins just beginning to come together. Be patient. No rush. Excellent.

2006: Alfred says rain at harvest so maybe didn’t pick at the perfect time but feels in a few years it will open up and show more. Found it a bit backward as slightly tough, harder, and drier presently.

2007: Difficult year with humidity and Spring mildew which required chemicals for one week to rescue. Alfred said he should have sat back and enjoyed one of his fine Cognacs and waited a week to see what happened first. Second guessing himself.  Nevertheless the wine is elegant and approachable quite stylish but leafy showing better with food.

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2008: First year used 3 horses and learned a lot about what was best for keeping the soil alive to give a better wine. Previously found this vintage smoother with mocha but more backward this night even though decanted at 2:30 that afternoon. Found it opening up and flavours much better with the succulent duck dish.

2009: Weather changed in June and a great year resulted. Softer but ripe lush easy big fruit almost drinkable now but concentration impressive for the future.

2010: Certified 0rganic-bio by Demeter in 2010. Tesseron family proud of being the only property to get 2 consecutive 100 point ratings by Parker. Your scribe very impressed by the classic structure here with real vibrancy to the intense cooler fruit. Classy Pauillac with an unlimited future!

2011: Pressure on them after 2 perfect vintages. Different growing conditions gave a clean but leaner simpler profile here.

2012: Started using some amphora (30-35%) in the cellar and less new oak decision because don’t want to hide their good fruit. Solid for a less hearlded year with some spices.

2013: Extremely difficult conditions with nearly everything seeming to go wrong. 20 years ago the vintage would have been a total disaster. Rescued a good crop by strict selection (only used 1/3 of the crop) that Alfred feels is more Burgundian than Pauillac in style. Found it quite herbaceous presently.

2014: Back to normal quantity for them and a vintage that will be pleasant for many years on. Found it clearly best of the last 4 with full fruit and good depth. One to buy now. Also keep a eye out for the 2016 highly recommended!

Have you tried an excellent wine from Château Pontet Canet? Which Bordeaux vintage to you rate highest since 2005?

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Ask Sid: How to retain maximum bubbles in opened sparkling wine?

October 11th, 2017
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How do I keep the bubbles after opening champagne

Question: I often don’t finish a bottle of sparkling wine (sometimes Champagne) I open and wondering about the best method you use to retain those bubbles?

Answer: I find that using one of those hinged stoppers with a rubber insert works best for me. Be sure to keep that bottle really cold in a refrigerator which really helps to keep the most carbon dioxide in the wine rather than escaping. In fact cold temperature is probably the main key factor for retaining the bubbles. Others still suggest using a silver spoon (or some a stainless one) inserted into the neck of the bottle with the handle down that works for them. I have tried this method with poor results but it may be a myth because there seems to be no scientific explanation or support for this procedure. Keep those leftover bubbles very cold!


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Best Fish & Chips is in Newfoundland!

October 9th, 2017

Newfoundland fish and chips

Your scribe confesses to a soft spot for good fish and chips. Certainly have tried a lot of them around the world (including some excellent ones especially in Australia & UK) over the years but often find so many disappointing. The main problems usually arise from both the quality of the fish and the freshness of the oil used to make them. Another big issue can be perfecting that batter crust avoiding the extremes of either a soggy undercooked floury mess or a very hard as nails overdone KFC crunchy style. Many places need to improve on this using a beer batter or a feather light crisp tempura style one which allows the fish to really shine as perfectly cooked. The chips are another discussion entirely coming in so many styles but admire those that are hand-cut just thick enough yet have a crisp exterior. Obviously a much more difficult tricky dish to cook successfully than is usually recognized.

Last week in Newfoundland exploring the much improved dining scene there. Some impressive places in St. John’s led by the amazing Chef Jeremy Charles & knowledgeable Sommelier Jeremy Bonia with their talented culinary and service team at both top spot Raymonds & their popular more informal The Merchant Tavern. Rocket is the perfect breakfast/brunch spot that shows off that unique friendly outgoing Newfie hospitality. Pretty good Fish ‘n Chips too at The Duke of Duckworth. However my recommendation for best Fish & Chips ever experienced goes to The Inn at Happy Adventure (originally Chucky’s Fish and Chips in St. John’s before relocating) on Newman Sound near Eastport on the Road to the Beaches. Fish can be many different varieties but in Newfoundland it always means cod and they obtain such an outstanding high quality product that is so fresh, moist, flaky, and flavourful. Probably helps to have Happy Adventure Sea Products (1991) Ltd. business right next door. The photo looks golden great but doesn’t quite capture how really delicious these Fish & Chips are. Dish pairs well with the Quidi Vidi beers they have on tap. Definitely worth a detour!

Do you have a special Fish & Chips spot to recommend to us?

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Ask Sid: Best Vintages for Port?

October 4th, 2017
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what are the best vintages for port wine

Question: What are the best vintages for Port?

Answer: Your question is not really clear but assume you are asking me which Vintage Port years are the best. Generally the year is less important for the many other port styles out there from Late Bottled Vintage to Single Quinta to old vintage Tawny. Our IWFS 2017 annual Vintage Card & Chart lists years 2015 back to 1995 but only gives a top 7 rating to three Vintage Ports: 2011, 2007, and 2000. Good choices though some would add 2003 and the 1997 is now approachable at 20 years.

Going back further here are some of my personal favourites: Classic 1994 with both 1991 & 1990 worthy, 1985, 1977 & 1970, 1963 (collected and enjoyed a lot of these but 1966 often seem to be aging better), 1955 underrated, the pair of preferred 1948 & 1947, 1945, 1931 especially famous Quinta do Noval Nacional (though last time tasted it with the Regular that outshone it), and historic old years of 1927, 1912, and 1908!


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Clos du Marquis Vertical

October 2nd, 2017

Clos du Marquis Vertical
By Tomas er (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

It is a real treat and an honour to conduct each September a red Bordeaux tasting in Vancouver with my good friend “Mr. Sauternes” Bill Blatch. This year we featured 8 vintages of that unclassified St. Julien but equivalent to a 3rd or 4th growth Clos du Marquis. Now a part of the Domaines-Delon.com which includes the prestigious Chateau Leoville Las Cases 2nd growth St. Julien, Chateau Nenin in Pomerol, and Chateau Potensac Medoc it was brilliantly managed from 1976-2000 by Michel Delon and most impressive wines these days by Jean-Hubert Delon. It is not a second wine of Las Cases (which is Petit Lion first started in 2007) but specific vineyard plots used since 1902. The wine is capable of complexity, power, and refinement as was shown here at this tasting. Some brief impressions with detailed stats that Bill obtained for us from the Chateau:

1990: 70/22/8 of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc harvested 20 September to 6 October Alcohol 12.95 Early budburst & flowering, hot dry Summer with rainstorms end of August but optimum conditions for ripeness. Shows mature colour but enticing coffee chocolate elegant bouquet with concentration of seemless balance. Oldest wine and very popular choice at this tasting.

1998: 54CS/36M/7CF + 3 Petit Verdot harvested 23 Sept-12 Oct Alcohol 12.70 Better vintage for Right Bank but seems still quite fresh though in a more herbal style that Bill preferred more than your scribe. I suggested pairing it superbly with a green pepper pizza but Bill felt it would age further and match well with most foods. Quite nice.

2003: 54CS/43M/3PV Early harvest 11-26 Sept. Natural alcohol 13.3 Exceptionally hot March & April + rain in June during blossoming + real heat wave Summer (over 40C) + blessing of early Sept. rain. No acidification. Unique smoky sweet cherries & ripe fennel. Drinking well presently.

2004: 57CS/38M/2CF/3PV Late Harvest 4-17 Oct. Alcohol 13.15 Flowering good but cool Summer. Much softer entry with earthy dank tobacco flavours and outclassed here.

2005: 50CS/37M/12CF/1PV 21 Sept-7 Oct. Alcohol 13.45 Dry cold winter with early budburst beginning of April + even blossoming last week of May. Sunny and very dry Summer resulted in thick skin small berries (Bill says: “dry juice & not opulent sweet”). Cedar forest floor concentrated fruit impress but not singing now. Disjointed. Bill feels the wine confirms the old saying that CS gives round long tannins but high Merlot % gives rougher square tannins that are presently displayed here. Surprisingly low CS for this vintage.

2007: 58CS/35M/5CF/2PV Sept 24-Oct 7 Alcohol 13.44 Very hot Spring but cooler July & August slowed it down with good Sept. On fine drinking plateau now in generous style with their less ideal fruit going into first time 2nd wine Petit Lion. Less depth. Simpler.

2009: 70CS/20M/8CF/2PV Sept 22-Oct 7 Alcohol 13.66 Best possible flowering & berry set. Hot with very little rain. Now a walled enclosed vineyard as the Clos name indicates. Great vintage shows in a fatter velvet silky easier to drink attractive cassis style. Less acid seems almost oily but so charming. Bill feels it is starting to close up and destined for a long life.

2010: 75CS/17M/8CF Sept 28-Oct 13 Alcohol 13.8 Very dry hot April but slowed down by cool May & June. Sunny July-Sept. Bill says it was hot but interrupted by brutal storms and temperature changes that has made the vintage more chunky and evolving. Another outstanding wine that shows a more graphite classic style with a long finish but  is much less showy. Friendly debate between us of comparing old 1959 & 1961 styles to current 2009 & 2010 but of course entirely different times. Will be interesting to monitor how this current pair evolves with time in the bottle and which one ages the best. Asked Bill about preferred service of either one at a dinner presently and he recommends decanting at 8 am.

Finished up with 2003 Chateau La Tour Blanche Sauternes with the highest ever very sweet 191 grams/litre of sugar. Did one picking instead of their usual 3-8 time passes. Bill points out the defining unique “spearmint” of this property and the freshness remaining that will likely turn to butterscotch with more bottle age. He is a big fan of 2001 Sauternes but now feels 2009 will be the best ultimately.

What are your thoughts on the preferred Bordeaux red vintage between 2009 or 2010?


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